Do I betray my manager’s confidence to warn my co-workers? Ask HR

Do I betray my manager’s confidence to warn my co-workers? Ask HR

April 27, 2021

If your manager has entrusted you with sensitive information, it may be best to keep it to yourself, Johnny C. Taylor Jr. advises. (Photo: Getty Images)

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.

Question: I work at a restaurant. Last week, my manager told me in confidence that he believes the restaurant will be closing due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel like I am now in an awkward position. I want to share this with my colleagues, but I also want to keep my manager’s trust. How should I handle this? – Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted employees, employers, and businesses in a million big and little ways.

It seems like you’ve been put in an incredibly difficult position – balancing the knowledge of a potential closure impacting you and your colleagues while keeping your people manager’s trust.

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That said, I encourage you to keep this sensitive information to yourself. It’s understandable you would want to share this news with your co-workers, given it impacts them, but your supervisor told you this information in complete confidence. Acting on this knowledge could break your people manager’s trust and create stress for your colleagues. 

I’ll add this: Spreading the news prematurely could have consequences – especially because you may not have the full story. While I can’t speak to the specifics, the truth is, your people manager, too, might not have the whole picture. Although they told you they believe the business may close, the decision doesn’t seem to be set in stone.

You could also speak with your boss and share that although you will keep the information to yourself, you would like to know if there are any plans underway for leadership to formally communicate changes with staff.

Either way, it’s in the best interest of you and your team to wait until management makes an official, public announcement before discussing any news. 

Again – this is truly a hard position to be in, and it’s difficult to keep a conversation of this magnitude to yourself. However, your people manager will applaud you for handling this professionally. Keep your head up and good luck.

Q: I worked as a contractor for a financial service firm. They wanted to convert me into a permanent employee. I went through the interview process and received an offer that was significantly less than what I was making as a contractor. I initially declined, but the hiring manager told me if I didn’t accept, my contract would be at risk. He made me feel backed into a corner with no options. I accepted the offer but continued to look for a new job. How do I explain this situation? – Shane

Taylor: I’ll start by being candid: it’s not unusual for employers to offer independent contractors lower salaries if they become full-time employees. 

There are a few reasons for this – one of them being the total compensation package as an employee may actually be higher when benefits and employee perks are added up.

For instance, employees typically receive benefits such as health insurance, dental and vision coverage, and paid time off – things that are not normally provided to independent contractors. 

I also want to emphasize there’s more to a job than pure compensation. I encourage you to shift your perspective and try thinking about your situation in a new way. Ask yourself: Is this an opportunity for me to grow my skillset? Can I make new connections in my field? Are there professional growth opportunities I have access to as a permanent employee? Am I aligned with the culture?

If you choose to seek a new position, it’s best to be honest but respectful during your interviews. If your current employer did not provide any benefits to offset the reduction in pay, the prospective employers may understand your concern. You can share you needed to be realistic about your financial needs but continue to seek other job opportunities. 

Remember, HR professionals are actively listening for several green flags during interviews. They want to learn about your character, how you present yourself, your skillset and how it applies to the position you are interviewing for and how best you may represent a future employer. 

At the end of the day, I encourage you to recognize salary is only one slice of the pie. Think broadly and try to embrace the silver linings. Best of luck!

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